It was our last day in wonderful Ireland, and we were in Dublin. Just like the old days here at home, Sundays are primarily a day of rest over there. Thus, few restaurants were open Sunday morning, and we were starving. We went into a packed restaurant, and when a waitress told us they had no more room, I went into tragic-begging mode. Out of kindness and pity, she found a tiny spot for us to sit. We were seated only a few feet away from a family of four: a mother, father and their two daughters. I guessed the girls were about thirteen and sixteen years old. We had a brief conversation with them, and when I told them we were from the States, specifically Texas, he told me his agent advised him that he should visit the "cultural" part of Texas: Marfa. Marfa? So I gave him a few additional recommendations of places he could also visit. Basically everywhere else in Texas.
Denise and I began eating our beloved breakfast, and I noticed almost everyone else had long since finished. That’s what they do: they visit. I had noted the sixteen year old daughter had basically never stopped talking with her parents. No earbuds. No scowl. Just talk. It was a pleasure to behold. I really wanted to say something to the parents, but I was a long way from home to be so uninhibited, so I didn’t. When they finally left after a two hour breakfast, we all said a quick farewell. A minute later the waitress came over with two flutes of champagne. It was a little early to enjoy champagne, and besides, I didn’t order it. When I told the waitress, she said, “oh, the gentleman at the door ordered it for ye”. So I jumped up before they could all get out the door to thank him for his kindness and generosity. So I told him what I had been thinking: “I was a little hesitant to tell you this because I thought I would appear a little too strange, but I am a counselor in Texas, and work with a lot of teenagers. To watch the interaction of your family, and particularly your older daughter who never tired of talking to you, speaks highly not only of your family, but you as a father.” And he tipped his derby slightly towards me and replied: “that, sir, is worth far more than a glass of champagne.” With that, he shook my hand and left.
When I got back to the table, the waitress returned to ask us, “so how do ye know Mr. Banville?” I told her that we had just met him in the restaurant, and who was he? She seemed genuinely surprised and answered: “Mr. Banville? He’s the most celebrated author in all the UK. Why just recently he received the highest honor in literature, the Booker Prize.” Yow! A Really Famous Person. And a fine gentleman and father. We left the restaurant and found an open bookstore. Not only did they have John Banville, but they had an entire section for him. He is a prolific and renowned author. It was a fine way to depart this beautiful country.
So years later, even though I know our actions only represent ourselves, nevertheless, I think of Ireland as a whole bunch of John Banvilles, showing kindness and class. It’s not logical or necessarily accurate, but I suspect it may be a universal truth: right or wrong, our actions represent a great number of people. I think I’m going to have to start working harder at showing kindness, generosity and a lot more class.